December 19

Snowflakes in the Garden

The same people who are rejoicing over the Electoral College’s crowning Donald Trump are precisely the same people who constantly post fake news on my social media pages. (Two of them actually posted fake news stories within minutes of celebrating Trump’s coronation.)

Of course, I’m not supposed to point out their fallibility and prejudice. My conservative friends say it’s not nice. My liberal friends say it will backfire and cost Democrats votes in the long run.

At this point, I don’t care.

It’s not nice to point out their stupidity and complete inability to question their own confirmation bias? Whatever. I’ve been studying Russian politics, history and culture for 25 years; I have a minor in Russian Studies. The fact that Trump loves Putin should scare the crap out of anyone with an IQ above 20.

I’ve also been following the “alt-right,” or as I prefer to call them, “white supremacists,” for 15 years. (Long story, but it has to do with a Holocaust literature class I took in my graduate program and the information literacy unit I teach.) The fact that Trump has chosen Steve Bannon for his staff is terrifying.

My conservative friends cry foul. “Does your tolerance not extend to Republicans?” they ask.

Yes, I can tolerate you despite your foolish, paranoid, dangerous and misguided decision. I won’t threaten you (unlike your elected president). I won’t hurt you.

But it doesn’t mean I’m not angry. It doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed in you. It doesn’t mean I won’t hide you on social media and avoid you as much as possible in real life. It doesn’t mean I won’t clam up and/or walk away when you start talking politics around me, trying to justify the mistake you’ve made. You’ve put our nation in danger. You’ve put my children’s future in danger. You put a man in office who reminds me of so many men who have victimized me over the years, a man who truly frightens me. Not because of myths I’ve heard from “the biased media,” but because of things that actually came out of his mouth.

I can tolerate you, conservative friends. I can even love you. But I don’t trust you.

Think of it in the same way you think of gay people –  I can love the fool without loving their foolishness. See how nice that is? You like it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Now, my liberal friends. I’m not supposed to tell these fools that they’ve made a disastrous mistake? Telling these people that they’ve been sold a bill of goods will hurt Democrats’ chances next time?

Your concern is pointless. It’s over. The Republicans now have enough power to disenfranchise minority voters. They can gerrymander. They can stack the deck even more in their favor. Americans are screwed. In this election, the “loser” got 2.6 million more votes than the “winner.” (In 2000, the Republican lost the popular vote by half a million.) Trump was right: the system is rigged, and it’s going to get worse.

Braver people than I are preparing to fight. Stronger people than I are ready to work against the oppressive wave coming. They remind me of the brave Germans who joined the Resistance when they saw the fascist tide turning toward them in the 1930’s. I hope they reform the Electoral College. I hope they block Trump at every turn. I hope they can reform our broken system.

Sadly, I am a coward. I battle depression and anxiety. And I have a lot to lose. I can’t join the fight.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve felt myself fading, quietly disappearing. Maybe I really am the intellectual elitist, the fragile snowflake I’ve been called. Maybe I’m melting.

Or maybe I’m taking my husband’s advice: “Keep your head down and don’t worry about things we can’t control.”

Or maybe I’m just getting ready to run.

Until it’s time to pull that trigger, il faut cultiver notre jardin.

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November 11

What You Don’t Know

The election is over, and Donald Trump will be heading to the White House in January.

Get over it.

What’s done is done.

Put on your big girl panties and move on.

By Wednesday afternoon, women who were grieving over the victory of a man who terrifies us were being told (often by fellow anti-Trump friends) that we need to “quit whining.” We have to mobilize, take action, DO something.

No.

For some of us, this grief will take longer to process. Some of us may not get over it until Donald Trump is out of office, and some of us may never get over it.

What you don’t know is that for some of us, this isn’t politics as usual.

What you don’t know is that, for some of us, this election was very personal.

What you don’t know is that many of us are keeping secrets.

Of course you DO know that there are things we don’t talk about in public. There are traumas we endure that we do not share. There are pains that we cannot let go of, nor can we express them to anyone, anywhere, ever. Trump supporters say they are tired of “political correctness” (a.k.a. “kindness”) because it prevents them from saying what they want to say whenever and wherever and to whomever. Imagine NEVER being able to speak about an event that has shaped who you are, that haunts your nightmares, that pops up at unexpected moments and sends you into a tailspin.

Women who have experienced sexual assault, incest, abortion, domestic violence, or harassment rarely speak of their trauma. We know that, bad as our experience was, the fallout from telling our secrets could be worse.

Tell a friend you’ve been raped? We know what happens to accusers in courtrooms and in the media. We’ve seen how pointless and painful that drama is.

Admit you’re being harassed or abused? Well, what are you wearing? Are you leading him on? Did you say something to upset him?

Confess you’ve had an abortion? Fire and brimstone! Murderer! Baby killer! You’re going to hell!

We remain silent.

We are silent in the face of a man who brags about sexual assault, who sexually harasses women on national television, who suggests sex with his daughter would be a real conquest, and who believes women who’ve had abortions should be punished. His election is a bit like running up behind a military veteran with PTSD and lighting a firecracker several times a day. Every day. It’s shattering and cruel and painful and infuriating and maddening and bewildering.

So don’t tell us to “get over it.”

What you don’t know is which of your friends has been raped.

What you don’t know is which of your friends has had an abortion she may regret.

What you don’t know is which of your friends is being sexually harassed or abused.

What you don’t know is that the face of our pain looks an awful lot like Donald Trump.

And everything you don’t know is breaking our hearts.

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November 9

An Open Letter to the President-Elect

Donald Trump,

You’re scaring the women and children.

The day after the election, I found myself sobbing in a co-worker’s office with several of our female colleagues. Our shared pain was not necessarily that Hillary Clinton had lost; most of us were not huge fans, though the prospect of our first woman president was exciting. No, our pain came from our shock and fear that we lived in a country where blatant racism and misogyny are not just tolerated, but rewarded. To the highest office in the land, our fellow Americans had elected a man whom we would not trust to babysit our daughters.

My 11-year-old daughter is terrified of you.

You might think that’s my fault, that my husband and I made a bogeyman out of you. We did not. In fact, we spent months tiptoeing around politics at home, not mentioning the campaign if she was in the room and begging our guests to do the same. But she heard things at school. She’s in a high-ability class, and they watch news. They discuss current events. She was suddenly seeing worrisome changes in her classmates. Some of her Hispanic and Muslim friends were scared. She’s been having nightmares for months. You are the monster under her bed.

The morning after the election, I had to go upstairs to wake her for school. To help her sleep the night before, I had lied and told her the election results were tied even though you were already ahead. I didn’t want any more nightmares for at least one more night.

Walking up those stairs was like walking to the gallows for my own execution. I dreaded the moment I actually had to tell her that the monster in her dreams had been elected president. I stood in the doorway and looked at her peaceful sleeping face for a minute. When she opened her eyes and asked, “Do we know?” I had to tell her yes, we did, and Secretary Clinton had lost.

I tried to do it the same way I would pick her up after a tumble when she was very little: keep the tone light, brush her off, make it no big deal.

Or the way I do when she finds a big, scary spider, and I have to get rid of it without freaking out because I don’t want her to inherit my fear. Keep the tone light, eliminate the spider, no big deal.

She cried anyway.

So here is my plea, Mr. Trump:

Stop talking about women in terms of our genitalia or physical attractiveness. (Including your own daughter, please.)
Stop threatening to shoot or bomb random people.
Stop exhorting your supporters to shoot people.
Stop bullying people on social media.
Stop mocking people with disabilities.
Stop threatening to build impossible walls and deport people because of their religion or ethnicity.
Stop spouting off and listen to the advisers and veteran public servants we’re all now counting on to keep you from sending nukes to some country because one of its citizens looked at you the wrong way.

In short, stop scaring the children. The mothers of America thank you.

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January 12

More Guns

Ugh, this topic makes me tired and slightly nauseous. In fact, after the nightmare of Newtown, I had to bail out of Facebook for several weeks. The posts, from both the anti-gun lobby and the pro-gun lobby, were pushing me toward a nervous breakdown. Every day I had to drop my baby girl off at her elementary school. I would wave to her principal (a wonderful man who had coached my son’s Little League team) and see Dawn Hochsprung. I would smile at her music teacher (a young lady I’ve known since she was my daughter’s age) and see Maryrose Kristopik. I would watch my second-grader walk through those doors and see all those precious children gunned down by a mentally messed-up young man whose mama loved guns and taught him how to shoot really well. To come home and read all these posts on my Facebook wall was too much.

So I left Facebook, quit watching the news, stopped reading my Reuters and NPR feeds on my phone. I prayed that everyone would calm down. At least they might stop bombarding me with posts about a subject that, even in the best of times, makes my heart race.

I hate guns.

If you have read my blog before, that’s old news. I won’t re-hash.

Recently, thanks to Alex Jones’ total meltdown with Piers Morgan, the pro-gun/NRA folks’ chief argument has become “We need to be armed against the possibility that our government is taken over by tyrants.”

Because that happens a lot.

But even if it did, we’d be screwed.

See, the irony here is that the same people who scream that we have to have guns in case of a dictatorial government takeover tend to be the same people who want a really well-funded military. So in the remote case that our government WERE taken over by tyrants, we are, pardon my French, totally f—ed. Those tyrants will have access to weapons of mass destruction, so happily funded by neo-cons, that Saddam Hussein could only have dreamed of. And nobody’s little arsenal is going to stand a chance.

Meanwhile, we have millions of people with ridiculous, unnecessary weapons. Yes, by and large, they are law-abiding citizens. I know several responsible gun-owners who would never bust into a school, a movie, theater, a mall, and start using innocent people for target practice. But let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a woman. She was smart, well-educated, compassionate. She loved her husband and her child, and she would never let anyone hurt her family.

When she was pregnant with her second child, however, she got sick with a very rare condition. None of her doctors could figure out what was wrong. But something terrible was happening to the woman’s brain. She stopped sleeping. She started seeing “ghosts.” She started hearing voices. And those voices told her terrible things. They told her she could not possibly carry her baby to term. They told her she had to die. They told her that her husband and son would be sad, though, so she should take them with her. She argued with the voices. She couldn’t watch her beloved little family die. Poison. Fire. Kitchen knife. They were too slow. Too painful. Too dreadful. She couldn’t kill them like that. If only she had a gun…

Luckily, I didn’t.

And my husband found me in the kitchen with a knife and sent me to the E.R. where I was, by the grace of God, treated by a doctor who realized what was wrong with me. One pill a day, and I was right as rain.

Eight years later, I think about those nightmarish weeks when my brain didn’t feel right in my skull, when I didn’t sleep for weeks, when I saw things that weren’t there, when I heard scary little voice that told me to kill people. It doesn’t seem real. I hate guns, and I adore my family. I would never dream of hurting anyone. Could that have been me?

And then I see “monsters” like James Holmes and Adam Lanza. “Bad guys” with guns who could’ve been stopped by “good guys” with guns. What a quaint notion. Obviously, these “bad” people weren’t ALWAYS bad. They went many years without killing anyone with their precious guns. At one point, they would likely have been considered the kind of people pro-gun folks WANT to own weapons. To protect people from the bad guys. Until they snapped. Then they become the bad guys. They wear black hats. Easy to recognize. Especially when they’re reloading their huge clips designed to kill lots of people fast.

Obviously, the kind of mental breakdown I experienced is far more common than a tyrannical government takeover. Most rational people don’t want to make all guns illegal, but this argument against ANY legislation is naive, paranoid and short-sighted. If the US government wants to take you out, your gun won’t save you. But if your mom, your brother, your husband snaps and suddenly becomes one of the “bad guys,” your gun will absolutely kill you.

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November 13

An Open Letter to the Republican National Committee

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I write to you as an independent voter from Indiana. Although I voted for President Obama, I also voted for several Republicans in last week’s elections. Since I started voting in 1990, I have prided myself on splitting my ticket, thinking carefully about the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, regardless of party. Sadly, your party is putting forth fewer and fewer candidates who represent thoughtful, moderate politics, candidates who will get things done in Washington. Every election, my ballot becomes more and more blue, even though my opinions on the issues have not changed.

This year, your party went on a witch hunt against its own. Your constituents, fueled by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and other talking heads, went on a crusade for ideological purity and took down any moderate in their path. My state lost a Senatorial icon for whom I had voted in every election – Richard Lugar. He was replaced with the extremist Richard Mourdock. His comments on rape were bad enough, but the main reason I could never vote for him were two other more egregious comments: “I certainly think bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view” and “The highlight of politics is to inflict my opinion on someone else.” That took him off my ballot.

Mitt Romney, at least the Mitt Romney who was governor of Massachusetts, was an intriguing choice as your presidential candidate. Had he remained the Governor Romney of Massachusetts I had become familiar with, I might have voted for him. However, like John McCain four years ago, Romney was disfigured by your party. He had to pander to your base, which is growing ever more virulent. What some people saw as a “flip-flop,” I recognized as a Directive from the Committee: “Gov. Romney must say THIS, not THAT, if he wants to win our base.” Last year, as I watched your candidates’ debates, I hoped Jon Huntsman would win; he was brilliant, experienced and thoughtful. Now I’m glad he did not because you would have put him through the same machine through which you yanked McCain and Romney; I doubt Huntsman would’ve come out of your primaries a viable candidate, just as Romney did not.

But the real purpose of my letter is this: I am begging you to take control of your brand, your message and your base.

For too long you have allowed Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the like to represent your brand and spread your message. It is not working. You will continue to lose more and more of the middle until you take back control of your brand.

You need to step up and speak against ridiculous pronouncements of doom by firebrand, right-wing ministers who insist that Armageddon is coming because the Democrats won the Presidency! You need to say SOMETHING when your extremist constituents start petitions to secede from the United States. (Didn’t we do that once? Poor Abe Lincoln must be rolling over in his grave, watching his own party undo the very principles for which he fought so valiantly.)

You need to insist upon some intellect from your constituency. The smart, small-efficient-government guys I used to love are being drowned out by the crazies screaming about “dropping off fiscal cliffs!” and “Obamacare is socialist!” and “the end of democracy!”

You have created a Frankenstein monster of cowboy capitalists, anarchist militiamen, atheist Ayn Rand acolytes, pro-life evangelicals, and paranoid old white folks who watch Fox News (a.k.a. Tea Partiers). If you don’t figure out a way to calm this monster down, it will to continue to frighten the moderates and alienate the rest of our nation until your party becomes completely obsolete.

I’m not trying to be cute or disingenuous. I truly want your party to be a viable option for those of us in the middle. As far as I’m concerned, the more parties, the better. But right now, as one of your more intelligent strategists put it, “”Republicans are a Mad Men party in a Modern Family America,” (Matthew Dowd as cited in Tampa Bay Times, 11/11/12). Stop letting the crazies and the well-paid talking heads be the face of your party. Take control and bring some sanity back to the GOP for the good of the USA.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Mahoney

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